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ur cashflow. i'm nelson gutierrez of strictly bicycles and my money works as hard as i do. this is what membership is. this is what membership does. i have a dream. >> the day that changed america forever. the march on washington. august 28th, 1963. ♪ >> people of all races, regular people from all walks of life,
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marching against injustice, marching to change history. >> we are the moral revolution. >> how long? we want our freedom and we want it now. >> a call to ask and a call for peace. a word that inspired a people, a nation and the entire world. >> free at least, free at least. thank god almighty we are free at least. >> tonight a special hour-hour toll particulars nation. the march on washington. the dream continues.
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good evening. i'm al sharpton live from the lincoln memorial here on the national mall. first years ago hundreds of thousands of people stood where i am right now watching history. millions more watching at home, seeing the leaders of the civil rights movement. call for justice and equality. i talked to him from the exact spot where he can spoke 50 years ago. and we'll hear some of the young people who traveled hundreds of miles to help change the course of history. i'm honored to begin the show
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tonight with martin luther king iii and reverend joseph lowry, who mean call the dean of the civil rights movement. thank you both for being with me on this historic occasion. >> thank you. >> thank you for having us. >> let me start with you, martin. tomorrow we are having the continuation march that you and i have spearheaded saying that we must combat today's ills and what remains. but let's go back 50 years ago. your father made a speech that has been called one of the great orations in american history. and yet to him -- to you he was just dad. and you continuing to fight in his tradition, what does it mean for you to be here where your father literally changed
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history? >> well, rev, what it means to me is that while we reflect, recognize what he and his team -- dr. lowrie being one of those -- was to transform this nation in a most positive way so that people -- he took the words interestingly enough, the words of our history and really made poetic music out of it. it was quite remarkable. that's the positive side. the challenge and opportunities that exist today in a sense state that in many senses we've made individual progress, but collective progress we haven't made enough of. when we look at the unemployment rate in african-american communities 18 to 30. anywhere from 18% to as high as 40%. when we look at the fact
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violence and murder is up. violence in our nation and murder. when we look at the fact that unemployment overall is not where it needs to be. so it's exciting, but it's a challenging time as we approach this 50th anniversary. >> now, let me ask you this. you and i and others that are out here today dealing with issues like the voter suppression like stop and frisk have no idea the kind of pressure your mother and father was under. your father had been indicted for income tax, house bombed. you later had had lost your grandmother shot by someone crazed. all the questions about your uncle. give us as a family member the sense of sacrifice, because everyone sees the ceremony. but you had to sit at home and see your mother deal with the
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anxiety and the pain. >> yes, i did, but i'm so thankful that she sort of prepared our environment and our home and sheltered us to some degree. but, you know, one of the examples was oftentimes we received phone calls. of course, our home was bombed. before i was born in 1955 in montgomery. the home was bombed. fortunately no one was hurt. but we get calls all the time. any one of us, my siblings, and i could answer the phone and it would be an ugly voice saying ugly things. i'm sure that had an impact on us. but fortunately we were able to overcome that because mom taught us the epic of love and forgiveness. then of course after dad was killed, it had to be reinforced and learned again. granddaddy king said i refuse to let any man reduce me to hatred. the man that killed my lovely wife for the man who killed my son, i refuse them even to reduce me to hatred. all of that reinforcing helps us to make it through. >> that's what we have to pass
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to this generation behind us. dr. joseph lowrie, the dean himself. it's an honor you're here with us tonight as well as tomorrow. you are one of the only survivors that was in leadership 50 years ago. a cofounder of the sclc where dr. king chaired the board, became president. and you lived to tell us. and you live to do the invocation for the first african-american president of the united states barack obama. >> benediction. >> the benediction. >> get it straight. >> you closed. >> last word. >> you had the last word. all right. well, dr. lowrie, how do you feel? first of all, let's go back. how was those times? because people don't realize this wasn't just a bus outing coming to washington. there was major struggles in the south.
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james farmer who headed one of the civil rights groups couldn't even make it, he was in jail. there had been blood shed. tell us the environment that this march happened in. >> well, you know, you sound like john kennedy. he was assured there was going to be violence. he was sure we'd have turmoil and turbulence of all kind at the march. but we had faith. god had brought us along, dr. king kept us under the commitment to let justice roll down but not let violence roll down in our experience. so we trusted god. and we prayed. when i got to washington, i came in early that morning from chicago, and there was nobody around. i came on a plane and i got
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nervous that we made a mistake. but then late morning, the place filled up. and we had been having martin tell us everybody who came this would be a non-violent experiment. a non-violent experience. and surely enough there wasn't a single arrest that i recall made. there was no violence. people were joyful. people were warm and loving. and people were serious. people came -- we didn't -- excuse me. we didn't come to play. we came to change history. really didn't know we'd change as much as we did, but we knew america would never be the same after those 250,000 people. >> when you came, blacks across the south couldn't vote in most places, they couldn't use public
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accommodations. i mean, people drove here, couldn't even stop and use the public toilet. it was not what we're going to do tomorrow. >> my father was a republican at the time. because he couldn't be anything else. the democratic party had a slogan in alabama where i was born and where my father lived most of his life, had the slogan white supremacy. and that was the slogan on the emblem of the democratic party, so my father voted republican. he couldn't understand until roosevelt how any black could vote white. but that march changed america, it changed us. but, you know, let me say this, brother sharpton. i'm grateful to you and martin, i call you mr. king if you insist. but we didn't come up here just to commemorate the past. we came up here to celebrate the future. we came up here to say that we've got a lot of things that
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have not changed, and we intend to finish the job that we've started in 1963. >> martin, i think that he is saying exactly what we're saying. what does this generation and the generation behind us need to know? because not only did the movement open doors for blacks, it opened doors for women, it open doors for latinos, asian, gays. i mean, it really opened up america. >> it certainly did. in fact, many of the suffrage movements derived the inspiration from the modern civil rights movement that dad led and others -- so many dad became one of the leaders. he is by far -- there's not only one leader. he certainly personified something significant. but there were a lot of people, a lot of unsung heroes who were part of this movement. what young people need to do is
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find what their calling is and assume their rightful roles in a nation where, you know, we are mastering run and rapping and rhyming instead of reading, writing, and arithmetic. we need that to compliment the running rapping and rhyming. >> reverend lowery are in your senior years. i believe you're 92. >> i'll be 92 in october, the lord willing. >> the lord willing, you'll be 92. as you look back over the decades, what is the things that you can say you're most fond and most proud of? >> well, that's hard to say, but i'll answer that because if you give me a minute, i was looking through some sermons the other day and i ran across one i preached in the 1980s. and the name of that sermon was everything has changed, and nothing has changed. >> wow. >> and i'm dusting it off, because i'm going to preach it again. because it's just as appropriate
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today as it was in the '80s. everything has changed, but nothing has changed. and we come up here not just to commemorate the past, but to chart a course for the future. and everything has changed. we've got more black elected officials than we've ever had. we even got somebody who operates over here in the house somewhere in this city. >> the white house. >> the white house. and yet at the same time, 30-some states are charting a course to deny us the right to vote. which we earned and which we died for. everything has changed and nothing has changed. so young people have their work cut out for them. i don't know what i could remember as most impressive in those days except i remember
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that i didn't get to speak because every organization had one speaker. >> well, you're speaking tomorrow. martin and i have you on the program. >> i'm going to give the whole sermon i planned to give if i had spoken back in '63. >> all right. martin, before we go, you had put out a book for children. and sunday after the march we'll go to the king memorial between 1:00 and 4:00 and you'll sign books for kids. >> yes. i don't like to do this, but -- >> i insisted you do this. >> all right. i have a children book entitled "my daddy: dr. martin luther king jr." there are all sorts of historical books on dad's leadership and everything you can think of. but i'm blessed to be one of his children. i write from that and lessons i learned at the age four through eight years old. we'll be signing at the memorial. >> dr. martin luther king iii and reverend joseph lowery. thank you both. coming up, thousands came from every corner of this country. black and white. to make history 50 years ago.
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tonight we'll hear from some of those voices. plus my interview with a living icon. a man who brought the crowd to their feet that august day. congressman john lewis. >> we do not get legislation out of this congress. the time will come when we will march through the streets of jackson, through the streets of danville, through the streets of cambridge. >> a legend in her own right joins me on set. and as we go to break, the music that day was an essential part of the event. it included a legendary rendition of "we shall overcome" led by joan baez and sung by a chorus of hundreds of thousands of people. [ singing ]
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♪ bob dylan singing a song he had written that summer about an event that weighed heavily over the march on washington. the assassination of medgar evers.
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one of the most powerful voices of the civil rights movement just two months earlier. medgar evers spent his life trying to change b this country. he was the naacp's first field secretary in mississippi. he had fought for his country in world war ii. before coming home to fight for justice here. his assassination by a white supremacist in june of 1963 helped to inspire the march on washington. joining me now is myrlie evers williams, the widow of medgar evers and a legendary civil rights leader in her own right. and historian taylor branch author of the trilogy of books on dr. king and the civil rights movement. thank you both for being on tonight. >> it's a pleasure. >> thank you. >> let me start with you ms.
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evers williams. your husband was killed in june of '63, and it was part of what really ignited the movement that had already started around having this march. you were the speaker at that march and didn't make it. and one of the things we're most proud of is tomorrow you're going to make that speech at lincoln memorial for the march on washington. >> well, thank you. >> 50 years later. >> thank you ever so much. >> tell us what was running through your mind as you fought in mississippi and the climate in 1963. because i don't think people understand that we've seen a lot of marches, but they don't understand the climate and the danger that people faced. you had literally just lost your husband with your three children
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sitting inside. >> not only were the children sitting inside, but they also saw their father. the shots rang out, they did what he told them to do. go to the bathroom and get in the tub. because it was the safest place in the house. they ran out when they heard me scream and they saw their father lying there in a pool of blood with his keys in his hand. so, you know, as we talk about that period of time and the children of the slain heroes, the children have sacrificed a lot. and i think we are so proud of them to see how they have come forth in their own right to do what they had to do. that was a terrific and terrible time, because the momentum of the movement had gained a pace that we knew something terrible was going to happen very soon. you live with the threat of death, and you know that it's going to come at any particular time. mississippi was the key state, if you will, and perhaps i'm saying that because i'm from mississippi. the key state for all of the brutality and the changes that
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came along at that particular time. we go back to emmet till and so many other cases that are not as well known that medgar investigated and was there on hand with all of it. and you live with knowing that your days are numbered. it's not easy, but you do it because you believe and you care. and all of those people who spent days in jail, who spent days out in the open and food and drink brought to them and the cops would spit in the food. and here you are. that was a swell of young people who became involved at that time as well. >> taylor branch, you wrote about the anxiety about the march. because in the rewrite of history, everyone was on the side of the march and civil rights. but you wrote the city banned liquor sales for the first time since prohibition. president kennedy and his
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military chiefs were poised to trigger suppression by 4,000 troops assembled in the suburbs. the washington senators postponed two days' games. so this march was not welcomed with open arms 50 years ago. >> absolutely not. we have a terrible history in the united states of rewriting our racial history to make it more comfortable to us. the comfort was made by the people who came here and showed america that it was wrong about what the march was going to be like. people were terrified. i spent a lot of time interviewing byron rush who was in charge of the logistics. he said he teased the reporters afterwards because they had said it was going to be a disaster and armageddon. they said it would have been except for a guy byron who put porta potties on the side and made them ready for tea. and the movement was confronting
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those fears to try to make americans understand that our hope was living up to the best in the american dream. and that people that didn't even have the rights that the rest of us took for granted were the ones pushing us forward. as a white southerner, i look back and say it was the best thing that happened to the white south. you never heard of the sun belt south when it was segregated. it was poor and trapped in the segregation. it libertied the white south too. and women from things young people today cannot have a hard time imagining. that black people couldn't go into public libraries or rest stops. that women couldn't serve on juries. they couldn't go to my university, the university of north carolina at chapel hill unless they were nursing
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students by state law. things like that. the movement opened up those things and is the gateway to really realize things. and so we all stand on the shoulders of this movement. >> and there was violence. i mean, dr. king led a non-violent movement. there was no violence during the march. but you were subjected to violence and violent threats every day in mississippi and birmingham happened that summer. >> every day. >> tell people where the resolve where you might get killed had to come from. >> i think one had to truly believe that america could become the kind of country that we all knew that it could be. medgar fought in world war ii for freedom. he came home, saw everything was different. i on the other hand grew up in a very segregated society in
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mississippi and nothing was expected of me expect from our small community. but you slept, you ate, you did everything looking over your shoulders and being alert that one day something was going to happen to you. i think of the radios that played dixie almost 24 hours a day. it was a kind of a brainwashing type of thing. you knew what sound was which. if a car backfired, you knew it. you knew the sound of a motor of your car. we watched out for each other in our neighborhoods. and we knew that something violent was going to happen. so you'd better be prepared for it. how do you prepare for something like that? you come together as a group. you hope, you work, you play, you plot, you plan, and you wait. but you don't stop while you are waiting. and i think about our young people today and as i look across and see camera crews, never would we have thought that
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we would have young people of color in the positions that they are in on television nor you sitting where you are, reverend sharpton. it would not be, because i recall the time when lena horne, sammy davis jr., and roy wilkins were probably the only african-americans ever on television and whenever they would come on a program, the tv would go black. and nothing was said. nothing was done until they were off. and then you usually heard dixie being played and the original program being restored. there have been so many changes, and i just -- i think about all of those people that we don't even mention or don't know who paid such a tremendous price. you are doing -- and everyone else involved in this -- you're providing such a wonderful service of knowledge of the past. because we can move forward with that and hopefully that's exactly what we're going to do. >> that's what we're doing this for. and that's what tomorrow is
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about dealing with today's issues. but we need to know what happened. taylor branch, dr. king's speech is now one of history's high points. and you wrote in your book that president kennedy in reacting to the speech, actually watched the speech. i'm going to read from your book. kennedy was witnessing a complete king speech for the first time. he's damn good, the president remarked to his aides. later he greeted king with a smiling i have a dream. tell us about how the president at that time john kennedy had kind of a complicated relationship with dr. king in civil rights. >> very complicated. the president had just proposed a civil rights bill in june that very night medgar evers was killed, he gave a speech, proposed the bill. but he saw himself as cutting
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loose from the solid democratic south which had been the base for democratic presidents for a hundred years. so he was petrified. and when martin luther king came to see him about how are we going to pass this bill, president kennedy refused to talk to him until he satisfied jay edgar hoover that he wasn't involved with anybody hoover thought was conversive. kennedy said we're with you now. so he was frightened. but he knew a good speech when he heard it and he knew a good line when he heard it. it's quite remarkable that none of the "i have a dream" we remember was in dr. king's prepared speech. >> we'll get to that in the show. ms. evers williams, you know also there weren't a lot of women speakers that day. you were scheduled and didn't make it. and byron rusten who taylor mentioned was told to take a back seat because he was gay. all of that, we're going to deal with tomorrow. i think that you can't fight for
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some civil rights without fighting for all civil rights. you undermine it. but the women that were heroes in the movement never really got their recognition until many years later. but women were just as important and just as courageous and worked sometimes even harder than the men that got the recognition. >> you have no idea how delighted i am to hear you say that. because you captured the essence of that entire issue. and i hope that this time that we will see more women being recognized and being able to move forward. if i may pull on the friendship of clareta scott king and myself, we were very close and talked about that same thing. where are the women? are we really being recognized for what we have done and continued to do? and think of women who would come to our office on saturdays after getting their little
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paychecks and would reach in their blouses wet with perspiration, pull out a few dollar bills and say here this is for the cause. we would say no, you don't have enough. keep that for yourselves. no, we have to do something. we can't march. we support our children. we support our pastors. but this is what i can do to give. women helped to build all of this. and i really think -- i know that we have not gotten the credit for what we have done. and i hope that will change from this march forward. >> we're definitely going to see to that. myrlie evers williams and taylor branch, thank you for being here. ahead, reliving the march. the march was of the likes this country had never seen. we'll show you some of the press coverage that day. from celebrities to activists, the march electrified the nation. among the voices that day, the reverent fred shuttlesworth renowned for his courage and fearlessness. >> we're going to march. we're going to walk together. we're going to stand together. we're going to sing together.
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we're going to stay together. freedom freedom freedom! we are continuing our coverage live of the 50th anniversary of the march on washington. max and penny kept our bookstore exciting and would always come to my rescue. but as time passed, i started to notice max just wasn't himself. and i knew he'd feel better if he lost a little weight. so i switched to purina cat chow healthy weight formula. i just fed the recommended amount... and they both loved the taste. after a few months max's "special powers" returned... and i got my hero back. purina cat chow healthy weight.
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i love you, angie. sorry, honey. ♪ this represents a grassroots deep determination in the hearts of millions of brown americans to be free. and it is a tribute to them that they have chosen to still appeal to their government in this type of dignified manner. >> it was truly a grassroots movement. and one of the big six organizers of that ground swell was the man who just heard. whitney young. as president of the national urban league, he helped rally the throngs that gathered that
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day. they were marching for justice, but also jobs. in the 50 years since, much progress has been made, but those issues are still at the forefront of what we all still fight for today. joining me now is the man who's carrying mr. young's torch today, mark moreall president of the national urban league. and tom joyner, host of the tom joyner morning show. he will host our rally tomorrow and march. thank you, both. >> thank you. >> thank you so much, reverend. >> mark, we made tremendous progress as a country, but we're reliving many of the same battles today, aren't we? >> particularly in the area of economics and jobs. the unemployment rate is twice as high as it is for whites for
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african-americans and latinos are not much better off. and in fact, the unemployment rate for african-americans is higher today than it was in 1963. the economic divide, income inequality, that to me is an essential part of why we march and what tomorrow's going to be about. >> now, you have looked at the -- you know the urban league puts out black state of the year. you look at these things with data. to spearhead where we're going tomorrow. what are the important things that we want this nation to know about today?
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>> we want this nation to think about the work that has to be done in five areas. and that's the agenda we put together and we announced today. it's economic disparities in unemployment. it's education and our children. it is protection of democracy and voting rights. it is reform of the criminal justice system. and it's helped disparities. we want the nation to know that as far as we've come, the unfinished work means we need a new civil rights movement. >> tom joyner, you have one of the biggest microphones, biggest megaphones in america. and you never hesitated to use it to rally troops. we wouldn't have done this march without you. we couldn't have done trayvon martin and other things without informing your audience. and you are known all over this nation as one of the great voices of entertainment but also with a purpose. but what a lot of people may not know in the tv world, you come from alabama. you grew up at a time the movement was fervent. tell us about how it was growing up in that time.
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>> well, if you saw -- if you looked at -- when you see the people marching and you see the dogs and the hoses in alabama, you see children. and i was a child then. i did get a chance to march the last leg of the selma to montgomery march. but every weekend we were doing something. we were marching for to desegregate churches, lunch counters, schools. and that's the way it was. every weekend we would march. the children. the children would march. and they had some great sandwiches too. and i was a fat kid. and i loved marching for sandwiches. i'd like to tell you i was out there for justice and civil rights. but as a fat kid, i was really out there for the sandwiches. it was a great time. because our whole community came together. the whole community came together. and our parents didn't want to risk their jobs, so the children went out. that's the way it was growing up in alabama. >> you know, when we look at the big six and i was just talking with myrlie evers about the women who were unsung heroes, we saw a diverse of leadership where everybody had their roles and complimented each other. and that's what you and some of us have tried to do. >> we are working hard, reverend, and you've been an important part of this creating a spirit of collaboration and coalition. our ability to work together. and we've got dynamic women who
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are part of this movement. and this new civil rights movement i think is prepared to confront the challenges of now into the future. and i'm just proud to be part -- in fact, i feel privileged to be part of what will happen tomorrow.
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>> tom, the entertainment world was front and center in many parts of the civil rights movement including the march on washington. today, though, many of our entertainers seemed to run away from issues unless they get real hot. and you have insisted on calling them out saying you need to help those that have made you successful. and you have not been shy about calling them out in helping black colleges, helping education and things that you put millions of your dollars in. >> yeah, that's true. that's true. but the one thing that radio -- black radio in particular has never been given credit for, and that was our role in getting people to march. getting people to come to washington, d.c. let's think back. this was 50 years ago. there was no msnbc. there was no social media. the best you had was u.s. mail and with a nickel stamp you could get a flier in the mail within seven days. you had the telephones but you didn't have cell phones. so everyone didn't have a phone walking around. you couldn't just call people. you had radio. dr. king didn't have a megachurch. maybe had a membership of 250 people. and only a hundred of them could
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get in the sanctuary at one time. you didn't have megachurches. you had radio. and radio was a part of every black person's life. so when dr. king or reverend abernathy or joseph lowery or any of the civil rights workers would come by the radio station, we stopped playing the temptations and james. we would hand the microphones to the civil rights workers maybe sometimes drop it out the window and they would tell us when and where we were going to march. >> you'll be hosting tomorrow and we'll take it to the 21st century. thank you both for joining us this evening. thank you for helping us bring tens of thousands here. still ahead, they came by train, by bus, even by foot across hundreds of miles. coming up, i'll talk to two women whose lives were forever changed by that day. and as we go to break, here's legendary singer and civil rights activist harry bellefonte
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on what the march meant to him. >> to be in washington was for me today a beginning really. a kind of a climax to generations of hope. is the best.
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dr. king -- dr. king mesmerized a quarter of a million people at the march on washington. but getting those people there wasn't easy. joyce latner was just 14 years old in the summer of 1963, but she and her sister dory had already worked in the civil rights movement for years. they grew up in mississippi but worked in new york that summer with a student non-violent coordinating committee.
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helping to organize the march. they raised money to bring bus loads of people to the march. particularly people from the south. joining me now are joyce and dory. thank you both for being here. >> thank you for inviting us. >> thank you, reverend. >> joyce, tell me about the badge around your neck you're wearing. >> this is my badge from the original march from 50 years ago. >> right here. >> yes for the reserve section. i was working for the reserved section. as a staff member i was able to go on the lincoln memorial and move around in the crowd and so on. >> why was it important for you to be at the march 50 years ago? >> it was very important because we grew up in hattiesburg, mississippi. got expelled for organizing a civil rights demonstration and
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then went to tulu college. sent to representatives to work on organizing the march. and then dory went to work at the other office. but that's -- i was an organizer for the march. that's why i was here. >> dory, the morning of the march you went and protested at the justice department. >> yes, sir. >> then you came over to the march. what was your reaction when you got here and saw the march? >> i was overwhelmed, reverend. i didn't think we would have mobilized that many people. that that many people had the same concerns i did coming from mississippi where we had been tear gassed in 1961, medgar evers murdered june 1963 just before the march. and we had been expelled from jackson state college for protesting. so we had a lot of grievances to bring. also voter registration, we didn't have the right to vote. >> let me ask you, joyce. tell me why you feel the crowd came that came. everyone has said tonight that they didn't expect the crowd
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that came. what do you think caused it? >> i think it was because people were tired of what was happening in the south. and they wanted to do something about it. one thing that happened that morning, i was here about 7:30 that morning. we wondered are the people really going to come. we thought we'd get a hundred,000. but 250,000 came. everyone was interested in this thing called civil rights. we brought people up from the south so they could see that they were not alone. that they were not isolated. i think it was the first time that the march was nationalized. >> tell me, dorie, about medgar evers. you worked with medgar evers? >> yes. i was with medgar evers the night he was killed. we were at ways to boycott at downtown jackson, mississippi.
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president kennedy had spoken about the civil rights that night so we went to the elks to get some food. about 9:00 we got up to leave. and we said outside getting in our cars we'll see you tomorrow. and we went home to our respective houses and he was killed. and reverend, that night i could not sleep. the doors were slamming and shutting. i had a restless sleep. when my cousin knocked around 3:00 in the morning and said medgar's dead. i said i knew it. >> you mentioned -- >> good organizers. >> he organized that march. >> yes, he did. >> great organizers and great
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teachers. he had this unusual ability to see the big picture and all the little parts that had to be put together piece by piece. he pulled together -- there were only about 12 of us working with him up on suh er. i understand he gave you a scholarship. >> that's right. he did. >> but he was a masterful tactician and a practical pragmatic person. by the time we got washington the day before the march, all the work was done. all we had to do is wait. >> thank you both for your time tonight. >> thank you, reverend. >> thank you. much, much more from our special two-hour edition of "politicsnation" live from lincoln memorial. including berniece a. king on what her father's legacy means now 50 years later. and my interview with a living icon. congressman john lewis. what you wear to bed is your business.
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by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. i have a dream today. ♪ welcome back to a special edition of "politicsnation." the march on washington: the dream continues. >> good evening. i'm al sharpton continuing our special coverage live from the lincoln memorial on the national mall. 50 years ago, the eyes of the nation were on this spot where hundreds of thousands of people converged on history. people of all races from all walks of life joining hands in the name of justice and civil righ

The Rachel Maddow Show
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